Lucy's story

Not all heart surgery is open heart. Lucy Fitzsimmons, who's 14, underwent keyhole surgery for a heart problem.

I was born with an atrial septal defect. This is an abnormal opening, or hole, in the wall that divides the left and right chambers of the heart.

It hasn't caused me any problems while I've been growing up, but now I'm coming into my child-bearing years it was decided that having children might put too much pressure on my heart, so as a precautionary measure I should have the procedure to close the hole.

A few years ago I would have had to have open-heart surgery, which is a really big operation. But now doctors at hospitals like Birmingham Children's Hospital can carry out non-surgical closures, which are safer and need less recovery time. I was only in hospital one night and was back at school within three days.

What the doctors did was what is called cardiac catheterization, which is where they insert a wire up my groin and into the artery. The wire, or small tube, is a bit of bendy metal that's like a memory foam. They put a catheter, which is collapsible, through the tube and into the heart. The catheter then opens into the hole and takes the shape it needs to take in order to fill the gap. In time, tissue grows over it.

I'd never been into hospital before, so before I went in for the procedure, I was very keen to know everything about it and what would happen. My consultant cardiologist, Dr Chetan Mehta, explained it all to me.

The night before, I was anxious because I'm extremely scared of needles and I didn't like the idea of the cannula (a small tube that is inserted into the back of your hand, after it's been numbed with special cream, to administer the medicine that puts you to sleep). Dr Mehta came and talked to me, which gave me the reassurance that everything would be okay.

Although having the cannula fitted did hurt a bit, the needle wasn't a problem in the end and there was no pain from the procedure, which only took two hours.

Your groin can be sore for a while, but I was fine. And there was no scarring at all: no one would know I've had it done.

I've been back for a check-up since I came out of hospital and I'll have another check-up six months after the procedure was carried out. That's when I expect to be discharged. Unless the device moves, I shouldn't have to have any more treatment and should be able to lead a completely normal life.

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